The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Interview: Ingrid Torrance, author of ACT! April 30, 2010

I wish there had been something like this when I was getting started as an actor….

I met Ingrid Torrance the other day at Biz Books when Cat asked me to come down and shoot some interviews with her. Ingrid, you see, has written a book, and Biz is hosting the launch party. The book is called ACT! A Step by Step Guide to Starting your Acting Career. I immediately recognized Ingrid as a kindred spirit (she’s writing about the business!), and asked her if I could do an interview for my blog.

RC: Tell us about ACT! Who exactly is this book for?

IT: Act! is for anyone of any age who is interested in becoming an actor as well as those have are already begun. If getting an agent, finding a class or coach, writing a letter to an agent, doing up an industry-friendly resume, auditioning, confidence or what your hit is; are questions you have, then Act! is for you.

I also think this is a great book for parents who want to get their children (of any age) into the industry because it gives them answers to where to go and how to start. An understanding of the business of acting will help everyone!

RC: Anyone who’s an actor probably has had lots of people ask them “how do you get started?” Why did you decide to write a book about it?

IT: I decided to write Act! for 2 reasons. First, I always have people asking how they can start out in acting and because I love the industry so much and have had a lot of good fortune in acting, I always want to help as much as possible; second, the students I teach would always want coaching with photographers for headshots, finding an agent, writing a letter, resume… and I thought, wow, there’s a lot of people needing this information, someone should write it down!! Then it occurred to me that I love writing, I have the personal experience of 16 plus years as an actor and as an acting teacher; maybe I should write it down!!

RC: Who is Ingrid Torrance?

IT: Ingrid Torrance; actor, coach, producer, director and author has appeared in numerous movies and television series since 1994. She has also been an acting teacher since 1995 and an on set and off set coach since 1998. Ingrid has worked on such shows as Andromeda, Smallville, The Outer Limits, Blade: The Series, Stargate SG-1, The 4400 and Higher Ground. She has appeared in such films as Double Jeopardy, Act of War, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, The Auburn Hills Breakdown, and Driven to Kill. Ingrid has been nominated for a Leo Award as Best Actress and was featured in Entertainment Weekly as a “Breakout” Actress. Ingrid has coached many actors for both performance and dialogue, such as Karina Lombard (of The 4400, Legends of the Fall), Cameron Bright (of New Moon, 11:11, Birth), Devan Sawa (of Final Destination), Greyson Golka for Men in Trees and Cheng Pei Pei, Henry O for They Wait.

RC: Who is Ingrid Torrance, really?

IT: I’m actually a hermit; I know, no one ever believes me when I say this. I spend a lot of time on my own and I’m quite shy. I come out of my shell when I’m doing something that I feel I do well or something that I really believe in, so acting is kind of a funny choice and in fact this personality trait comes out in my work too; if auditioning for something I don’t feel I do well, I can often get very shy about it. Something I’ve had to work on because you’re always faced with different roles and you can’t always pick and choose the roles you think are right for you. It’s been, and continues to be an interesting journey; and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

RC: So many of us (and I am often in this category) just want to make our art. We just want to act/paint/play the piano. Why do we have to deal with the business? Can’t we just get an agent or a manager to manage that stuff for us?

IT: I believe you need to embrace the reality of any craft, which includes understanding that there is a business side to any craft. With all the viral media out there, I think a personal touch is important; people want to hear from the artist directly, to have access to that person. Once you start, it’s really easy to keep it up and I look at it as a celebration of my work; you can take it or leave it, but if I don’t celebrate it, how can anyone else celebrate it. I’m sure everyone has the experience of someone’s work; painting, writing, performance, song, dance etc, having made a difference or impact on your life somehow, if it wasn’t made available to the public, then it couldn’t have made a difference to someone else. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your talent, your art, with the world; it doesn’t make it less wonderful or creative.

RC: Can you share with us three tips for actors starting out?

IT: 1) Find a class that’s right for you; know what you’re after, (scene study, improv, audition, theater training…) and find that type of class; find a teacher that you connect with who teaches in a way that works for you; audit, audit, audit those classes before you sign up!

2) Believe in yourself! No one is going to believe in you until you do! You can effect so many things; the way you approach something, the way people view you; even the energy in a room, all with your belief in yourself. As an actor, you need to be strong, you need to believe in yourself and you need to know why you’re doing it because there are a lot of “no’s” in the industry, you need to be the yes!

3) Learn about the industry; watch movies, read trade magazines, read plays, read scripts; know the industry!

You can buy a copy of Ingrid’s book, ACT! A Step by Step Guide to Starting Your Acting Career at Biz Books, and you meet her in person at the book launch there on May 13, 6-8 pm.

Check out a video I made for Ingrid here.

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Facebook and Twitter Updates April 28, 2010

If you’ve been on Facebook this week, you might have noticed this:

If you have a fan page, this change will affect you. Fan pages, in essence, don’t really exist any more. They’ll just be called “pages.” What’s the difference between “Becoming a fan” and “Liking” something? Facebook’s argument is that using the “like” feature makes things consistent across Facebook. If you have a personal profile, you have no doubt used the “like” function: it’s a kind of virtual thumbs-up or high-five when someone posts a status update that you like.

What’s the upshot? Well, I can be a little liberal with my “like”ing. I’m not as liberal with my “fanning.” Facebook seems to think that this change will increase users’ interaction with businesses who have pages. My feeling is, that numbers of what used to be “fans” will climb much quicker with the new system.

The other thing that is new about this system, and this part I think is pretty cool, is that it opens up Facebook to the web. You can, now, for example, but a Facebook Box in the sidebar of your website or blog, and one “Like” click will lead the user back to Facebook and make them your “Fan.” You can also install the “Like” button on every blog post you write, and if someone “Likes” your blog post, it will show up in their status updates (if they have opted in to allow FB to do this). This could really help to bring traffic to your website or blog–others may see it and click on the link.

To install the Like Box, go here to create the code: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box
Here’s a screen capture that shows you how to install it on your blog.

You can also install a “Like” button on your blog that will automatically be added to each blog post and page. This will add a little box to the bottom of that post saying that you “like” it. To do this, just do a search under Plugins–>Add new.

Here’s a more comprehensive explanation (thanks to @thenextstagemag)

Note that your WordPress blog MUST be self-hosted. They haven’t yet come up with a widget for WordPress hosted blogs that makes this simple. To see what this looks like, go to my website.

Twitter introduces the “ReTweet” button.

Late last year, Twitter introduced an automatic Retweet button. In the past, if you wanted to RT someone, you had to copy the tweet, then past it into your update, and precede it by RT@{person’s name that originated the tweet}. Now, you simply click the RT button, and it does it for you.

If you are following more than 200 people, you should probably not be using the Twitter interface. You should look into using another Twitter platform, like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Seesmic.

I’m not crazy about this feature. I often like to comment on RTs, if there’s room. The other thing I don’t like about the new system is that Twitter has made away with the @ part of the RT, so it doesn’t show up in my @ replies. In order for me to know if someone RTed me, I have to log into my Twitter account via the Twitter interface and check. Which I never do, because I use Seesmic.

Now you’re up to date with the hottest news in social networking.

I’ll leave you with the latest statistics: Facebook currently is pushing 400 Million users Worldwide, and Twitter just passed 106 Million.

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Repost: The “Sweet Spot” for Audience Development April 26, 2010

Everything I write about on this blog has one end goal: to help you to sell your work. More bums in seats. More CDs or paintings sold. And one way of doing that is to create relationships based on trust with your audience.

About a week ago, John McLachlan, whose blog I am really enjoying these days, put up a post called The “Sweet Spot” for Audience Development, where he talks about exactly that–how social media can allow us create an intersection of audience, artist and producer–in a spirit of interaction and connectivity.

Here’s an excerpt:

I work with a lot of artists and arts presenters and my background is as a touring artist who was booked by arts presenters. I remember what it was like to be virtually unknown, show up in a community and perform.

When you perform, you make a connection with an audience (at least you try). When that happens, you have magic and delight for all involved. When an artist opens up and lets an audience in on their art, a strong connection is made. In a sense, you become friends even though you’ve never met in person.

I’ve been thinking about how to extend that friendship to before and after the actual performance. Until recently, this was very difficult for artists.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

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Blogging for Dummies April 23, 2010

A long, long time ago, in September of 2008, when I was just getting started with blogging and podcasting, I wrote a post called Welcome to the Blogosphere. The topic of that post was an interview with Shane Birley and Susannah Gardner, the authors of Blogging for Dummies: The Second Edition.

Well, time goes by, and 230 posts and two and a half years later, I caught up with Shane and Susie again, who have just published Blogging for Dummies: The Third Edition.


We chatted about how the Blogosphere has changed in the past two years, and about how social media is now a huge part of blogging. We also talked about WordPress versus Blogger, and how quickly things change on the ‘net.

Shane and Susie leave us with three blogging tips:

  1. Schedule time to write
  2. Define for yourself what success looks like and set goals
  3. How to use other forms of social media to increase your blog readership (like e-newsletters)

I won’t give away any more, you’ll just have to listen….

Blogging for Dummies Interview

Blogging for Dummies, The Third Edition, is available at all major bookstores, Amazon.ca, or from http://www.bloggingfordummiesbook.com

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shanebee

Follow Susie on Twitter: @supersusie

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Building your website in WordPress Part 2 April 21, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:53 am
Tags:

I recently wrote a post about how to use WordPress.com to create a website or a blog (or a website with a blog) for yourself. Using  WordPress.com is a great way to build a basic website, but if you want to build a really great website with lots of room for customization, you should use the WordPress.org blogging software. It’s more technically complicated, in that you need to have your own domain name and hosting, but it offers much more freedom and customizable features than WordPress.com. The software is free–all it will cost you is the price of buying a domain name and hosting.

Using the WordPress blogging software offers a lot of advantages:

  • There are almost countless themes to choose from
  • There are almost countless widgets to choose from
  • The site address will be whatever your domain name is, with no “WordPress” in the address
  • With a bit of technical knowledge, you can customize the page to your heart’s content

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Register your domain name
  2. Make sure that your internet service provider, or wherever you park your website, is SQL enabled. I buy my domains from Doteasy, and included in the price of my domain, is free hosting. It costs me an extra $7 a month to have my site be SQL enabled.
  3. Go to WordPress.org and download the latest version of the blogging software and unzip the file.
  4. The next part is a bit tricky, because it depends upon who your hosting provider is. Basically, you have to FTP the files to your server. There art lots of free FTP clients out there–I use Cyberduck for Mac. Click here for the WordPress tutorial. If you get lost on this step, phone your hosting service–mine actually installed it for me.
  5. You should now be able to go to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and log into your site using the username (probably admin) and password which you created.

You’ll notice that the dashboard looks pretty much the same as the WordPress.com dashboard.

Your default theme will be plain, with a blue header. You’ll want to change it to another theme, and customize it. You have a few options:

  1. Do a Google search for “wordpress free themes” and you’ll get dozens of hits. Browse through and find a few that you like and download. I like this one. After you download and unzip it, you need to FTP the theme to the wp-content/themes/folder. Finally, in your dashboard, go into Appearance–>Themes  and activate your theme.
  2. Purchase a theme like Thesis (which is universally thought to be the most customizable of all the WP themes, and is used by all the heavy-hitters).
  3. Hire a designer to create a custom theme for you. Check out the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society site, or the Presentation House Theatre site, both custom designs. Or, hire a designer to modify an already-existing theme, like I am planning on doing this summer.

The Presentation House Theatre Website was built using WordPress by the students at the Interactive Design program at Cap U

Now that you have your site up and running, you can start to populate it.

  1. Create pages and add copy and graphics. For example, on my website, I have Services, Clients, About, Testimonials, and Resources. Don’t forget to put your contact information on there, as well, in the footer, the sidebar, or create a Contact page.
  2. Create a header using a program like Photoshop, or Gimp or Paint.net. It needs to be 780X200 pixels. You can upload it under Appearance–>Custom Header.
  3. Don’t forget to put your social media contact information in the sidebar. You can even import your Twitter feed into the sidebar. Simply go to Plugins–>Add new and do a search for “Twitter.” This will walk you through the process to install a widget which will import your Twitter feed into your sidebar.

Certainly, some of this can be very technically overwhelming, but the joy of WordPress is that the interface is so simple to use. If you get really lost, or you feel like it’s technically over your head, then think about hiring someone to build the site for you in WordPress, and all you have to do is write the copy and post it.

Good luck!

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Summer Courses for Youth April 19, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Workshops — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:07 am
Tags: , ,

A popular debate topic around these here parts is how do we build an audience for the future. One way of doing that is to encourage the next generation of theatre-makers. If you have a teenager in your house (thankfully, I’ve got a few more years before I have to worry about this!), here are some courses that you can put them in this summer to help them along.

Announcing The Cultch’s Summer Youth Performing Arts Intensive
A summer camp experience unlike any other!
On August 16th-27th, The Cultch’s Youth Program will welcome 40 high-school aged artists from across the Lower Mainland into their theatres to work in direct collaboration with the artistic-directors of four of Vancouver’s leading performing arts companies:

  • Kendra Fanconi- The Only Animal
  • Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg- Tara Cheyenne Performance
  • James Long- Theatre Replacement
  • Marcus Youssef- Neworld Theatre

This unprecedented opportunity recreates first-hand what a professional performing arts company has to tackle to bring a new work to the stage, all condensed into two weeks! The camp culminates with the students premiering the work they have
created with their mentors in the Cultch’s Historic Theatre.

Young artists who are entering high-school, currently in high school, or who have just graduated are all welcome. Musicians, dancers, and theatre-artists are all encouraged to register. “Our mentors are experts in working across the disciplines,”
explains Corbin Murdoch, The Cultch’s Youth Program Manager. “It is going to be a truly multidisciplinary experience. Participants will get to experiment with all kinds of art forms and learn how to collaborate with all types of artists.”

In addition to the 60 hours of collaborative creation time with the mentors, participants will take part in six skill building workshops led by The Cultch’s expert staff and staff members of the city’s leading arts and culture organizations. Workshop topics will include media relations, grant writing, and marketing– invaluable information for budding young artists.

“The Cultch is in a unique position to offer youth programming because we work so closely with Vancouver’s premiere independent performing arts producers,” explains Murdoch. “We are able to connect young people to artists in the city who are out there doing what they want to be doing in the future. It is all about learning first hand what it takes to succeed.”

“With 40 young artists using our facilities to create new work all at once, The Cultch is going to be alive in a way that it never has before,” Murdoch adds. “The energy and excitement is going to be through the roof. It will be the most exciting and inspiring two weeks of the summer, guaranteed.”

TO REGISTER:

Online: visit www.thecultch.com

Over the phone: call The Cultch’s box
office at 604-251-1363

Tarlington Training Creates the Young Actor’s Theatre Company, and remounts Canadian Stories

Tarlington Training Inc., Canada’s most respected acting Studio for young people, is pleased to announce the creation of the Young Actor’s Theatre Company, and a remount of Canadian Stories. During an intensive four-month course, young committed actors (16-19) will spend over 180 hours learning techniques for both stage and camera, culminating in a performance of the wildly successful Canadian Stories, an award-winning, original musical play, crafted from the stories of young immigrants to Canada.

Over 120,000 people saw the original production of the play across Canada, the U.S. and in the U.K. where it toured to schools and colleges and played in theatres and at festivals.

There has been great demand for a remount of the production, so the YATC and Tarlington Training are updating it to be presented publicly at the Firehall Arts Centre at the end of August. The play has also been booked to open the British Columbia English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers’ Conference in Vancouver in October 2010.

Apart from acting, the group will learn singing technique, meet with guest directors and gain important business information about the entertainment industry. They will also gain experience in touring, facilitating groups, acting for camera and valuable information regarding the entertainment industry.

Tarlington Training is Vancouver’s longest running acting studio for children, youth and teens. The play will be directed by the award-winning Carole Tarlington, a veteran director, casting director and acting teacher in Vancouver who helped launch the careers of many Canadian actors, including Kristin Kreuk, Ryan Reynolds and Sarah Chalke.

Two FULL scholarships will be awarded to talented, committed, deserving young actors.

The course runs weekdays from August 5 to 31 (10:00 am to 4:00 pm), then Saturdays from September 11 to November 27. Auditions are on Saturday, April 24 in Vancouver.

To book an audition time, or for more information, call Carole at 604 254 6316
or Brad at 604 664 0315. Young actors can also book audition times online at www.yatc.ca

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Building a website in WordPress April 16, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Blogging,Marketing Ideas,marketing with blogs — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:46 am
Tags: , ,

Ever since I wrote the post last week about the Belfry Theatre’s website, I’ve been getting lots of questions from folks about building their website in WordPress.

Creating a website in WordPress is a great idea, for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s essentially free
  • The interface is easy to learn
  • It allows you to integrate your blog and your website in the same page, and will help to drive up your Google Ranking

When creating your website in WordPress, you have two options, the same as if you were starting a blog:

  • WordPress Hosted
  • Self-Hosted

Today’s post is focused on how to start a WordPress-hosted blog or website. I will cover how to start a self-hosted site in a later post.

The WordPress Dashboard

To start a WordPress hosted blog, simply go to http://www.wordpress.com. You will first have to sign up for an account. Then, you can choose the name of your page. If you are using this for your website, ideally, you’d want to use the name of your business.

Your new URL will be http://yourname.wordpress.com. If you want to lose the ‘WordPress’, you have two options:

  • Buy your domain name (maybe you already have) and create a redirect (your internet hosting service can help you with this)
  • In your WP dashboard, click on ‘Settings’ and then ‘Domains’. For $15, WP will allow you to drop the ‘WordPress’ and map your domain, assuming it’s not already taken.

Now you can begin to build your site.

  • Decide what you’d like your site to look like. In your dashboard, click on ‘Appearance’ then ‘Themes’. You can browse through all the different themes and find one that suits your fancy. You may want to  look for a theme with a customizable header, so that you can integrate your logo and branding in there. Also, think about whether you want one or two sidebars. You can use your sidebar for your contact information, or to import your Twitter feed. At this moment, there are 85 themes to choose from.
  • Start to set up your ‘pages’. You probably currently have a website, or, if you don’t, think about what pages you’d like to have on your site. For example, you’ll want an ‘About’ page, a page devoted to your work, a contact page, and, of course, your blog. For each page you want to have on your blog, go to the ‘Pages’ menu and create a new one. You can populate it with content and copy, adding photos/video, etc. Your front page, the page that people see when they type your URL into thier browser, will be your blog.
  • Choose your widgets: one of the great advantages of having a WordPress page is the vast amount of widgets that are available to you. For example, you can use the Flickr widget to import your Flickr stream directly into the sidebar of your blog. To use widgets, go to the ‘Appearance’ menu on your dashboard, and click on ‘Widgets’. Choose which ones you want, and drag them into the sidebar.

I think starting a WordPress-hosted website or blog is a great option for someone who is just getting started. There are limitations, however, because you do have to work within the WordPress system. If you are just learning how to use WordPress, it might be a good option for you. Once you are more familiar with the interface, you might want to take the leap to a self-hosted WordPress site, which allows you much more freedom and creativity.

And is the topic of a future post…

Click for Part 2

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